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Deusdedit Ruhangariyo
Special to Indian Country Today

Around the world: A Catholic order is opening its Rome archives on Canadian residential school records, Otago University in New Zealand is facing allegations of racism and discrimination, the Ka’apor people in Brazil are working to take back their lands from illegal loggers, a Māori robotics program wins a national award in New Zealand, and a new clinic works to improve Indigenous dental health in Australia.

CANADA: Roman Catholic order opens Canada school archives

The head archivist for Canada’s National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation will visit the archives of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Rome, Italy, to assess and digitize residential school records, CBC News reported on March 19.

Raymond Frogner said the center is still seeking access to personnel files of priests and residential school staff, while the Oblates are looking for restrictions around records from those members who are still alive.

It will mark the first time a Canadian investigator has been granted access to the Oblate General Archives.

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Oblates is a Roman Catholic order that ran 48 residential schools in Canada, as well as the institution in Kamloops, British Columbia, where the remains of 215 children were discovered in unmarked graves last year.

“It's quite a wild card,” Frogner told CBC News. “We've been told there's correspondence there and other documentation, but we are still a bit in the dark of what is held there."

Evelyn Korkmaz, a residential school survivor, called upon the Vatican and other Catholic orders to release any records under their control.

“It's time to open that door of horrors and take a look at what's inside,” Korkmaz told CBC News. “These documents do not belong in Rome. They belong here, in Canada."

Korkmaz said she hopes the Oblates will disclose details about St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany, Ontario, which she attended from 1969-1972.

NEW ZEALAND: Otago University faces racism charges 

Otago University’s School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Science is facing allegations of systemic racism, discrimination and bullying from an investigation by a Kaupapa Māori research group, Te Ao Māori News reported on March 18.

Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson, the group's chairperson, said the assessment is aimed not just to improve one workplace but to improve the nation as a whole.

“We had, over a long period of time, multiple issues that occurred, that show through the review, to really acknowledge, then affirm and accept the issues that have been going on for many years,” Jackson said, according to Te Ao Māori. “But they’re not just located within Otago. They’re, in fact, across everywhere.”

Professor David Murdoch, the vice-chancellor of the physical education school, accepted the reports and promised urgent action.

Jackson said Murdoch’s response to the assessment is "a very positive sign.”

“We’re the oldest university in New Zealand, and so I think it's a watershed moment for our university, and really making that commitment that we don't want to have a university that experiences systemic racism,” Jackson told Te Ao Maori News.

BRAZIL: Indigenous Ka’apor take up defense of their lands

The Ka’apor people in the Alto Turiaçu region in Brazil’s Maranhão state have taken charge of their lands, creating a self-sufficient Indigenous territory that is regaining control of logging sites and access roads used by illegal loggers, Mongabay.com reported on March 14.

In a three-year period ending in 2016, the Ka’apor destroyed 105 logging trucks and closed 14 access roads, reducing the deforestation rate in their reserve.

Loggers, however, who are believed to be complicit with local politicians, responded with violence, attacking villages and killing five Indigenous people, Mongagay.com reported.

About 76 percent of the original Amazon rainforest in Maranhão has vanished. But the Ka’apor, whose name means “people of the forest,” control about 1.3 million acres. The Ka’apor were formally recognized by the government in 1982.

NEW ZEALAND: Māori tech program wins national award

A Māori robotics program aimed at Indigenizing the technology sector has won the Community Tech Champions award at the annual New Zealand CIO Awards, Te Ao Māori News reported on March 19.

The program, called the RoboPā- Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi, or RoboPā, is designed to involve more Māori people in technology-based topics.

“RoboPā won because of their high-caliber application and also the way their work brought technology awareness, robotics and engagement across generations and directly onto marae and into whānau homes,” said Kaye-Maree Dunn, a competition judge and Ahu NZ managing director.

Thomas Mitai, the RoboPā coordinator who teaches robotics and technology to more than 700 students, said youths are interested in learning about technology.

“That is what we do at RoboPā, we put children into an environment of technology that upskills them for the future,” Mitai told Te Ao Maori News.

AUSTRALIA: Clinic work to improve Aboriginal dental health

A new dental clinic in eastern Australia is offering services to improve the dental health for local Indigenous communities, the National Indigenous Times reported on March 20.

The Awabakal Dental Clinic, in Newcastle in the state of New South Wales, received $394,000 from the state's Ministry of Health to offer bulk-billed dental services to the Aboriginal community.

Previously, it was difficult to receive dental care services with a wait-list reaching up to three months.

According to a 2019 report from the Australian Medical Association, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children have dental disease at two or three times the rate of their non-Indigenous counterparts, are five times more likely to have missing teeth, and are less likely to seek out dental care.

Raylene Gordon, Awabakal chief executive, said she is pleased with the new clinic.

“Dental health can be expensive and inaccessible,” Gordon said, according to NIT. “The condition of your teeth is directly related to your overall health.”

The Aboriginal Medical Association reported fewer than 100 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander dental practitioners in the country in 2019.

Final thoughts

In my final thoughts, I would like to congratulate the Ka’apor people in Brazil are defending their territory against illegal loggers with much success, despite being abandoned by their own state. Their achievement is a source of inspiration for all Indigenous peoples whose lands and territories are being invaded.

And lastly, let me share with you Article 29 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 29
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination.
2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.
3. States shall also take effective measures to ensure, as needed, that programmes for monitoring, maintaining and restoring the health of indigenous peoples, as developed and implemented by the peoples affected by such materials, are duly implemented.

Global Indigenous is a weekly news roundup published every Wednesday by Indian Country Today with some of the key stories about Indigenous peoples around the world.

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